Jain's world: From a crossroads to Queensland

A new addition to the Bulls contract list this year, the 25-year-old has taken a roundabout path to elite cricket, and learned a lot about what makes him tick along the way

On the final day of the regular Marsh Sheffield Shield season, as it became clear Victoria would win their way through to a second straight final against Western Australia, the contest down in Hobart between Tasmania and Queensland became little more than a statistical box ticker.

The Bulls' hopes of a place in the decider had been dashed by the resurgent Vics, who were timing their run superbly with five wins in a row to edge into second spot.

For one man however, the events at Blundstone Arena had potentially life-altering consequences.

Walking out to the middle at the fall of the first wicket, about half an hour before lunch, a diminutive left-hander named Aryan Jain could well have been playing for his career.

Jain had made one in the first innings before nicking off to a Jackson Bird away swinger. In his only other first-class match, against New South Wales at the Gabba three weeks earlier, he had hit 14 and 17.

Image Id: 463B3ECA91D44883908ABDC28F5E7D1C Image Caption: Jain hooks on first-class debut against NSW // Getty

The 25-year-old hadn't even started the summer on a rookie deal, but here he was, dropping anchor across the final session of Queensland's season, desperate to make an impression at the last.

And so he did. When the teams shook hands at tea and the spotlight shifted to the retiring Tim Paine, Jain made his quiet exit, an unbeaten 44 from 99 deliveries across two-and-a-half hours the most significant hand of his career to date.

"It was a nice little recognition to tell yourself that you are good enough at that level," he tells cricket.com.au. "Because there's always that doubt in the back of your mind: Is it different? Will I be good enough?"

A couple of months later, when Queensland announced its men's contract list, Jain's name was included ahead of the likes of Sam Heazlett and Sam Truloff.

It had been a long, circuitous route for the Brisbane-born batter, but he had at last landed his first professional contract.

* * *

Jain was a 20-year-old living in London in 2018 when his best-laid plans fell to pieces.

The high-achieving student had in 2016 applied to study at the London School of Economics. It was a well-considered move, made with the intention of both building on his education at a prestigious school, and gaining exposure to a new environment for his development as a cricketer and a person.

"I was preparing to study over there for three years, and also play cricket over there for three years as an overseas (rep)," he says.

"I didn't think of it as something that was going to tarnish my cricket, or hurt my prospects. (I thought) it could also develop my cricket in different situations."

And for two years, Jain's plan was unfolding nicely, as he settled into his new home and school, and began playing regularly with Bexley in the Kent Cricket League.

Image Id: E9A66E6C8D9A4DA98A8448481EB7D5ED Image Caption: Jain with family after receiving his Queensland cap in February // Getty

Yet it was Jain's achievements back home that soon returned to haunt him. Because he had played Under 19s and Second XI cricket for Queensland – both considered 'pathways' competitions – a sudden change to the eligibility rules concerning visas for overseas players impacted him directly.

"So I was stuck on the wrong visa," he says. "I think I was classed as a professional, because I'd played pathways cricket, even though I was there to study.

"It was pretty devastating. I couldn't play club cricket, so I was restricted to a few university matches and then really just whatever cricket I could find that was friendly, invitational cricket, to keep going."

Today, Jain identifies his plain bad luck as a turning point. For him, like many others, the dream of a Baggy Green was ever-present throughout his youth, but a crossroads needed to be reached. Stuck abroad without a club, he discovered the depth of his ambition.

"It was, 'If you really want this to happen, there's no-one going to help you – you've got to find a way to do it yourself'," he says.

"Up until then I'd been in junior systems, where everything's kind of given to you, and even playing grade cricket, you're just taking that for granted.

"Then all of a sudden, you don't have a team to play with regularly; every time I turned up to play matches, I was meeting 10 different blokes for the first time.

"So even just not belonging to a team and not having that structure was tough, but it probably helped me in the end, because I was forced to find ways to train by myself, or find people to train with, find facilities in the middle of London in the winter … to manage your batting, your bowling, your fitness, fielding.

"And then (you ask yourself), 'What are you going to do to keep it up, so that you're ready when you come back to Australia?'

"So at the time it was devastating, and it might have hurt me in the short term, but in the long term, I took a lot out of it."

* * *

After completing his degree, Jain returned home towards the end of 2019, having found games of cricket wherever he could. He was able to hit the ground running with his Premier Cricket club, South Brisbane, scoring 81 in his first innings of the summer and 117 in his third.

The runs propelled him back into Queensland's Second XI, for whom he scored four half-centuries in three matches across the 2019-20 season to again put himself among state selection discussion.

Off-field, his employment opportunities were limited by the onset of the pandemic but at the start of 2021 he was hired by financial firm Ernst & Young, where his role in the consulting division involved helping businesses implement technology designed to optimise their financial performance.

The two strands of his life – cricket and academia – have always run parallel, a reality his Queensland captain Usman Khawaja has talked about previously as another son of subcontinental parents.

"It's always been a balancing act, but I think one that's really helped me," Jain says. "I was lucky enough to be alright in the classroom, and my parents supported me in making sure that I had a balance between the two aspects.

"I think that proved to be really helpful in improving my performances on the field and off the field as well, just having something else to turn to – especially in the last couple of years, where cricket opportunities became less and less.

"So having that security and comfort that you've got a job, and cricket is not the be-all and end-all, almost takes that expectation off you, and you actually perform better."

Jain's parents were born in India, though his crouched, open stance and high back-lift calls more to mind a couple of West Indian greats in Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brian Lara.

Again like Khawaja, the left-hander counts Lara as a childhood hero, although he will have to wait until close to the summer to swap notes about the Prince of Trinidad with his Bulls teammate, given his Ashes commitments.

Yet there are other experienced heads in the Queensland set-up Jain has already leaned on, from head coach Wade Seccombe to veteran opener Joe Burns. He has also been working closely with a contemporary of his in Bryce Street, who has already tasted success at first-class level and boasts similar academic acumen, having deferred a Bachelor of Mathematics at the Queensland University of Technology to pursue his cricket dream.

Image Id: D3BC4D5A55A448C6A889A7E7DF735362 Image Caption: Jain made 14 and 17 on debut for Queensland at the Gabba // Getty

"There are so many resources," Jain says. "It was really a privilege to learn from Joe Burns, someone who has a lot of first-class experience, and who has succeeded at a higher level, and people in my age group, like Bryce, who I've grown up playing with and seen go through the ranks.

"It's really about trying to tap into those resources and understand different methods of how they've got to where they are now, and just pick up those little tidbits from them."

Shortly after he signed his new contract, Jain resigned from his position at Ernst & Young. He knows it is cliché to say he is chasing a Baggy Green, and that, had you told him two months ago he would be where he is today, he wouldn't have believed you. Yet it makes it no less true.

For now, as he throws himself into his maiden Queensland pre-season, he is trying to keep the notion of balance in mind. It is another theme he looks to run through his life.

"It's easy to (put pressure on myself)," he says. "I'm trying to find a balance. Obviously, this is a much more preferable situation where I'm exposed to the resources of Queensland Cricket, I get to train all day, and devote most of my time to cricket.

"But I'm also trying to strike that balance and not change too much from the situation that got me here … whether it's pursuing more study or keeping my mind ticking over, so I've got that escape from cricket and it doesn't become all encompassing.

"It's exciting to be doing this full time, for sure, but I'm pretty aware of how quickly that can change when the game is not going well.

Street takes advantage as Tigers and Bulls play out draw


"So I'm making sure I have that balance, whether it's friends or just an interest outside of cricket that challenges me academically. That's something I'm trying to find to maintain over this year, at least."

There is a case to be made that Jain's journey has been a more rounded, healthier route into professional cricket than the funnel of underage representation. Pathways for talented teens can quickly become dead ends for young adults, a fact Jain is well aware of, which makes him happy to be a poster child for the relatively late bloomer.

"You're always striving, and the good thing is you do see people in a similar position – mature age, maybe haven't come through the pathways directly – get an opportunity," he says.

"It's good to see people like that rewarded, and it gives people who were in my situation a bit of hope that they could do the same if they do well at grade level and Second XI level.

"The longer it goes before you get an opportunity, that hope might diminish a little bit, but I think (the thought) is always there that you if you're playing at a decent level, you're never that far away.

"Things can happen really quickly."